The BYU football team practiced for more than two hours on Monday to open spring camp, then took Tuesday off to have meetings, analyze Monday's practice, and recover. They will be back at it today, likely in the indoor practice facility because the outdoor field is covered by plastic and there's still a lot of snow and ice (where it is shady) between the student athlete building and the actual playing field.
It is part of coach Bronco Mendenhall's plan to stretch spring camp to five weeks, rather than four, with three practices a week instead of four.
How hard was Monday's practice?
"Man, they are running us hard," said running back Mike Alisa. "I was talking to the offensive guys, I was like, 'man, that was the hardest practice we have had in a long time. So it is exciting. Usually, you are begging for more reps, now, you are like, 'OK, I will take a little breather, a little break, right now.' But it was a lot of fun. It was good."
It was strange to watch the offensive players join in with the defensive players on the pursuit drill, but there they were, chasing coaches and the football around as much as the guys who would rather hit than be hit.
"Man, you can definitely see that it is a team thing now, the hard work. It used to be the offense would focus on technique and the defense would run like crazy. Now it is everyone runs like crazy," Alisa said.
Alisa broke his arm in the fifth game of the season, against Hawaii, and didn't return until the bowl game. He suited up for the Poinsettia Bowl, but didn't see any significant action. He said Monday that his arm is mostly better, but still receiving treatment.
"They got me on a bone stimulator, and it is a lot like working on a muscle -- it is a little more sore than it was. Maybe that means the bone is growing," he said.
Alisa emerged as BYU's go-to running back last fall, before the injury, which was vital because Joshua Quezada chose not to return to the program. This spring and fall, he will obviously compete with sophomore Jamaal Williams after Williams emerged as the primary ball-carrier the final seven games of 2012.
"Jamaal is great. Man, he's a good running back. Adam Hine is looking really good, too. A.J. [Moore] is just off his mission. So I feel like the same thing as last year -- a lot of good running backs in the program, a lot of talent, a lot of speed," Alisa said. "And like I said, with the pace we are going at, there are going to be a lot of substitutions. They don't want anyone jogging around.
So the moment they see anyone letting up a little bit, they are going to put someone else in, so we always have fresh legs in there. It is go, go go, eight second transitions."
Alisa said he was close with Joe DuPaix, who lost his position as BYU's running backs coach when Mendenhall shuffled his offensive staff in the offseason. But the senior is also thrilled that former Cougar RB Mark Atuaia is back on the sidelines as well.
"Coach Atuaia is a motivator. We are from the same hometown back in Laie, and it has been really fun working with him. He gets it. He has been in our shoes, and this very same institution, and he knows what we need to do to get where we need to be," Alisa said.
Like Alisa, quarterback Jason Munns is another senior hoping to wrest a starting position away from a sophomore (Taysom Hill). Munns said Monday that he believes he will get more reps in spring practice than he's received in his entire BYU career to this point. Bronco Mendenhall, Robert Anae and new QBs coach Jason Beck have all said the competition to be the starting QB is wide open.
"I hope it continues that way, and I hope everyone continues to get opportunities, and those that are performing better get a little more work," Munns said. "But I feel in the end that spring ball is a time to develop the team in all areas, all depth charts. That's pretty tough to do by playing one or two people. You need to give everyone chances, and in the end you are going to be a better team for it."